The NBA head coach is like a child in his terrible twos.
He’s up, he’s down. He can’t sit still. He always has something to say. He’s constantly asking his players, “Are we there yet?”
He stomps and screams and makes faces. He won’t eat. He wants everything right now. Sometimes he needs a time out.
The NBA head coach has typically been a former player, and one who likes to touch the basketball a lot.
Point guards and small forwards have enjoyed the most success. Perhaps they’re the most cerebral players. Nobody tell any behemoth I said that.
The NBA head coach, as a rule, hasn’t been a former center or power forward. At least not the ones who’ve won a lot of basketball games wearing Armani.
These things happen. Goalies haven’t traditionally made good hockey coaches. Pitchers aren’t normally the best managers in baseball. When’s the last time a running back became an NFL head coach?
So Ben Wallace has the odds against him. It’s not the first time.
Wallace, the Pistons’ soon-to-be 36-year-old center, went to Virginia Union, which sounds like something that should be in a Civil War Museum. Nobody drafted him, which isn’t surprising, because nobody knew where to look.
Undrafted NBA players are lucky to latch on to a roster, let alone stick in the NBA for 14 years, as Wallace has.
Wallace found a place in the NBA because he could block shots and intimidate in the paint. It takes him a week to score 20 points, but that’s not his game. That was odds-defying, too; not too many players stick around for 14 years being as offensively challenged as Ben Wallace.
Wallace found his niche and decided to be a master at one thing rather than try to be a jack-of-all-trades. He’s been named the Defensive Player of the Year four times, and has made four All-Star teams. He has a championship ring, and came very close to snagging a second.
Not bad for an undrafted, undersized (he’s 6’9″, which barely qualifies as a forward nowadays, let alone a center) player from Virginia Freaking Union.
He’s defied the odds, and will have to do so again, if what I’m about to suggest is to come true.
Ben Wallace ought to be the next coach of the Detroit Pistons, right after whoever is coaching them when he retires. Now bring your jaw back up from the floor and put your eyes back into their sockets.
I don’t mean this season, or next. He just agreed to terms on a two-year contract as a player, anyway.
Wallace has a coaching gene in him, I’m convinced of it.
I’ve taken him to task in the past for failed leadership, but that was a few years ago. Since he returned to the Pistons last summer, Wallace has been a gem, counseling the younger big men. He can’t wait to sink his tendrils into rookie Greg Monroe.
Wallace is a Piston, and always will be, despite not starting his career in Detroit, and fleeing for a couple of seasons as a free agent. He’ll retire as a Piston. Whoever is the head man at that point, whether it’s John Kuester or someone else, ought to hire Wallace to his staff, let him work with the bigs, and Ben should stick around until there’s an opening a few seats down—which there invariably is in the NBA.
Wallace would make a good head coach because he had to work his ass off to attain the success he found as a player.
Bill Laimbeer is mentioned a lot as a possible NBA head coach. I agree with the mentioners. I see Wallace as Laimbeer with a mute button.
They’re similar, in the sense that Laimbeer was a lumbering oaf with the sad-sack Cleveland Cavaliers who no one could have predicted would turn into a multiple All-Star and a two-time NBA champion.
Wallace was a lumbering oaf who couldn’t score who was playing for the irrelevant Washington Wizards because no one else would have him.
No one talks about Wallace as coaching material because he doesn’t have that “terrible two” side to him. Laimbeer certainly does.
But if yelling and screaming was all it took, John McEnroe would have been the next Red Auerbach.
Wallace was never a guard. The offense never ran through him. He never called plays, or even for time outs. His words can be measured by the handful.
But he’s won, and he’s been around a lot of different coaches. He can pull the best from many of them.
I wouldn’t put anything past an undrafted multiple All-Star and NBA champion who played a position that he’s several inches too short for, from Virginia Union.
Pistons coach Ben Wallace.
It’s just crazy enough to work.